Father and daughter follow each other’s footsteps

February 05, 2015
Nikki Plymale swearing in to Marine Officer Program

Nikki Plymale is sworn into the Marine Officer Program in preparation for leaving in June.

Plenty of students have enrolled in college because a parent was teaching at the same university. But the Plymale family managed to reverse that order.

When Nikki Plymale was meeting with Menifee site director and academic advisor Miguel Aranda, her father, retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Dennis Plymale, happened to come along. The two men started talking. Aranda learned Dennis had taught organizational leadership courses at the University of Phoenix and wondered if he would consider teaching for Brandman. He considered it and now he does.

Meanwhile Nikki will put her studies on hold for at least three months when she heads off to officer training with the Marines in Quantico, Virginia, in June. It’s yet another link between father and daughter.

It’s her father and his connection to the Marines, both in active duty and as a reservist, that inspires her desire to serve. She’s wanted to be a Marine for as long as she can remember.

“I was always attracted to the camaraderie,” she said. “We would go out to dinner and he would meet someone who was a Marine and they would talk like they were best friends.”

She also sees the Marines as a place she can grow as a person and stay outside her comfort zone. “The military breeds some of this nation’s strongest citizens, and I want to be a part of that. There are no one’s footsteps I would rather follow than my father’s.”

Family values

Nikki thinks what her father learned in the Marines translated to how he and her mother raised their daughters and she wants to carry on those traditions and values.

“I guess as long as I can remember my parents told me I could be whatever I wanted to be, do what I wanted to do,” she said.

Remy and retired Sgt. Maj. Dennis Plymale

Retired Sgt. Maj. Dennis Plymale and his wife, Remy.

Her father wasn’t so sure about a life in the Marines for his daughter, at least initially. He insisted she get a college education rather than enlist out of high school so she could join as an officer. He thought graduating from the Arizona State University and getting a job might change her mind.

Nikki remained undeterred, even as she began studying for a master’s in organizational leadership at Brandman. She’s boosted her fitness and other qualifying scores through training and studying and continues to prepare for officer training school with 3-mile runs and weight training.

“You can enlist relatively easily, it’s a lot harder to get into Marine officer training,” said her father. “She’s literally worked for a year to get in. She’s more motivated by the day and that makes us incredibly proud.”

“I respect everybody who goes in the military. It’s not because you’re doing something others can’t do, but that they don’t do,” he said, speaking with special pride about the Marines specifically. “It’s a different mindset. Growing up, Nikki has seen that in me, that esprit de corps.”

Dennis credits what he learned as a sergeant major for his continued interest in organizational leadership. Despite having been stationed at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and knowing about Chapman University College (Brandman’s former name), he didn’t continue with his own education until he was stationed in Japan and a friend “kidnapped” him into going to classes taught through the University of Maryland.

He eventually earned his bachelor’s in criminal justice and then his master’s in business administration from National University after switching to the reserves and joining the Huntington Beach police department as an officer.

A short-lived retirement

After retiring from the Marines and the police department, he headed up security for three Fortune 100 companies, a nonprofit agency and an Indian tribe. He and his wife, Remy, retired to Murrieta from Anaheim, but not for long.

In addition to teaching at Brandman, he’s currently the director of employee relations and administrative services for the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. The center provides services to developmentally disabled children and adults.

“It’s so much fun, like being a sergeant major for a civilian organization,” he said.

Like his daughter, Dennis Plymale sees the value in having been a Marine particularly when it comes to teaching organizational leadership.

The Plymale family: Katrina, Dennis, Remy and Nikki.

The Plymale family: Katrina, Dennis, Remy and Nikki.

“That’s the forte of most career Marines, whether they’re military police or jet pilots. You’re working within an organization with an abundance of styles. Anything I’ve ever read, I can relate directly back to the Marine Corps.

“Leadership is so important. In the military, that’s what you do. It’s people from all walks of life, put together with the potential to get killed. The only way you get through that is with strong leadership,” he said.

Nikki also sees the parallels between what she’s learned at Brandman and what she’ll be expected to do as an officer. She knows she’ll need all the mental strength she can muster. “They’re just trying to make you tough because one day you’ll have people’s lives in your hands and you have to be ready,” she said.

Both father and daughter speak fondly of their Brandman experiences. He’s been impressed at how well prepared the students are when they come to class and credits the quality of the programs offered.  She’s happy with the responsiveness of the faculty, particularly online.

And if either had advice for Brandman students who might be struggling, it would probably sound like the advice Nikki takes from her dad and will carry to the Marines.

“You’ll want to quit at times, but if you know it’s deep down what you want, don’t give up on it. My dad says, ‘Pick up your pack and continue to march.’”

Find out more about Brandman University’s relationship to the military:

  • Brandman University named Top School by Military Advanced Education
  • Brandman University Announces 2014 Military Academic Achievement Award
  • Online military student wins scholarship, credits adviser

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